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Broadband funding begins to roll out; local grant delayed

Fiber optic cable
Fiber optic cable

The White House announced that $182 million in stimulus funds from the federal government designated for broadband internet were dispensed on Thursday, Dec. 17. Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement in the rural town of Dawsonville, Ga. The initial grants are the first of a $2 billion disbursement in broadband funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the next 75 days.

Cook County applied for the federal grant, but has not received funding yet. Danna MacKenzie, information systems director for the county, says the county’s application is being held up by a challenge from incumbent service provider CenturyTel.
MacKenzie said she has been assured the challenge will not prevent the grant from moving forward to the second funding phase, but it will likely delay the process until the end or February. Once the grant advances to the next step, the local initiative will have the opportunity to meet with their regional federal field staff to address CenturyTel’s arguments.

According to the White House, the grants are intended, “to bring broadband to communities that currently have little or no access to the technology.” The money dispensed thus far accounts for 9 percent of the $2 billion that will be given out by the end of February.

The grants made this week ranged from nearly $40 million to $2.5 million and included communities in Georgia, New York, Ohio, New Hampshire, Maine and Alaska.